Spectatorship in Theatre for Early Years Audiences: towards a working taxonomy of stillness

  • Katherine Morley

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis presents an examination of spectatorship in a performance context, concerning 0-18 month old infants and their carers. The thesis is presented in the form of a written submission and practical documentation. The practical documentation offers an encounter with the performance experiment, which sits at the core of this research sited in a ‘live laboratory’. The methods of the live lab were created to give space to consider the infant’s lived experience by acknowledging the power of novelty and the strength of that which is familiar. Through this lens it was possible to determine the ways in which compositional and directorial choices influence infants’ attentional preferences. From observation of multiple live performances and examination of audio-visual recordings, I have been able to distinguish how infants attend to performance and the forms of attention performance elicits. The inclusion of ‘pausing’ as a research method has enhanced opportunities to analyse subjective, dyadic and collective actions. Added together with an overarching analysis of infant vocality and detailed examination of moments of distal and proximal movement, the findings allow me to propose a clear definition of infant spectatorship through the presentation and discussion of a taxonomy of relative stillness. The taxonomy provides form for a notion of infant spectatorship which has been found to exist as a multiplicity of action and activation, held within a practice of care, curiosity and risk. By revealing the audible and visual entanglements of engagement and disengagement, this research contributes to a growing understanding of how moments of infant-led and parent-led spectatorship are shared. Taken together, this thesis offers new perspectives on how infants attend to performance in the directed environment of the theatre.
Date of Award31 Dec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJennifer Hughes (Supervisor) & Caroline Bithell (Supervisor)


  • Expectation
  • Percipient
  • Taxonomy
  • Enfolded Pleasure
  • Attention
  • Pausing
  • Silence
  • Spectatorship
  • Theatre for Early Years
  • Early Years
  • Infant-parent dyad
  • Infant
  • Relative Stillness
  • Theatre

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